NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pekka Rinne is desirous about Miikka Kiprusoff.

With profession win No. 320 on Nov. 22, the Nashville Predators star handed the former Calgary Flames netminder for the most NHL victories by a goalie born in Finland. “He was a unique form of man,” Rinne recalled, which was true, from Kiprusoff’s comportment to his athletic prowess, together with these one-legged “scorpion saves.”

Rinne mentioned he has by no means made a “scorpion save” himself.

“A minimum of not on function,” he joked.

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Kiprusoff, from Turku, had been the solely Finnish goalie to win the Vezina Trophy (in 2005-06) till Tuukka Rask, a local of Savonlinna, won in 2014, and Rinne, a local of Kempele, captured his in June. There have been solely 32 goalies from Finland who’ve appeared in the NHL. Lots of them are well-known again residence — Rask, Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi — however few rise to the degree of superstar loved by offensive stars reminiscent of Corridor of Famer Teemu Selanne and Patrik Laine, the nation’s present hockey deity.

Goalies are most beloved once they’re backstopping the Finnish nationwide staff. Rinne’s legend grew when he helped the Finns to silver in the 2014 IIHF world championships in Belarus, whereas Kiprusoff helped lead the nation to Olympic bronze in 2010, earlier than retiring from the NHL in 2013.

Whereas they’re the finest Finnish-born goalies in NHL historical past, that is just about the place a lot of the similarities finish between Rinne and Kiprusoff.

“Kiprusoff was, and nonetheless is, a thriller man. He does not like publicity and he did not prefer it when he was in the NHL,” Pekka Jalonen, senior hockey author for Iltalehti, instructed ESPN. “Kipper by no means goes to events, so, truly, he is not a star. There are usually not tales or articles about him. Kipper was a superb goalie, like a wall. However there was a wall additionally between him and media and followers. He simply needs to be left alone. He does not need any publicity.”

Rinne, on the different hand, has been an envoy for the Predators throughout his 13 years in Nashville. He is cordial. He is insightful. He’ll speak to followers, media, friends, children … anybody, actually.

“Each mom in Finland would let her daughter marry Rinne, little question about it,” mentioned Jalonen. “He is a gentleman. And a wealthy one too.”

That he is: Rinne adopted his seven-year, $49 million contract that expires after this season with a two-year, $10 million deal that would maintain him in Nashville till 2021. And he is assured that by the finish of his tenure in Nashville, there shall be one other distinction between him and Kiprusoff: He’ll be the one with a Stanley Cup ring.

“I’ve a whole lot of targets left,” Rinne mentioned. “I really feel like I obtained a whole lot of sport in me.”

Pekka Rinne has had some postseason struggles not too long ago, however he stays one among the league’s elite goaltenders. Francois Lacasse/NHLI through Getty Pictures

Pekka Rinne is desirous about icing. Simply not the hockey sort.

On Nov. three, the Predators gathered round a big cake and sang “Comfortable Birthday” to Rinne, who had turned 36 that day. He had signed his contract extension on his birthday, similar to he had on Nov. three, 2011, when the Predators made him the highest-paid goalie in hockey at the time.

On that day, he shut out the Phoenix Coyotes. On at the present time, seven years later, he shut out the Boston Bruins.

Comfortable birthday, Pekka Rinne.

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“I ought to simply signal one-year offers,” he mentioned, laughing.

There was some thriller about what Rinne’s subsequent contract would seem like, or whether or not it might even be with the Predators. His earlier two seasons have been exceptional by any measure: Rinne adopted a 31-win season and a .918 save proportion in 2016-17 with a 42-win season and a .927 save proportion in 2017-18, profitable the Vezina. This season, he led the NHL in save proportion (.938) and goals-against common (1.77) by means of 25 video games.

It is his postseasons, nevertheless, that earned him some skepticism. His .930 save proportion and 1.96 goals-against common propelled the Predators to the 2017 Stanley Cup remaining, however he misplaced all three video games he performed in Pittsburgh, giving up 11 targets and getting pulled twice. In the 2018 playoffs, Rinne was rickety once more: He gave up 4 or extra targets in 5 of his 13 appearances and was pulled after 10 minutes in the Predators’ Sport 7 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in favor of his understudy, Juuse Saros.

“It was an extended summer season. Longer than we needed,” Rinne mentioned.

Saros, a fellow Finn, is 23 years previous and signed by means of 2021. He seemingly can be a starter for half of the NHL have been he not thought of by the Predators as the inheritor to Rinne. That he has loomed on the bench throughout this unbelievable run from Rinne is not coincidence.

“It drives you. You want that competitors. It is clearly enjoyable to play with Juuse, watch him turn into extra snug on this league,” Rinne mentioned. “He is a particularly gifted younger goalie. I feel we have now a very good relationship right here. We’re going to acquire from one another, study from one another.”

A part of the intrigue for Rinne’s subsequent contract with Nashville was that plan of succession. Would Rinne ultimately turn into the “1-A” goalie, regardless of beginning in over 59 video games per season since 2014? When might, or would, Saros take the crease?

Rinne mentioned there hasn’t been any timeline established between him and the Predators.

“For my viewpoint, I needed to keep right here. From the get-go, that was my purpose. It ended up taking place fairly easy. The staff needed to maintain me round. I completely find it irresistible right here,” he mentioned.

“However we’ve not talked about the future. On this sport, you possibly can’t predict the future.”

Pekka Rinne took over the Predators’ crease throughout the 2008-09 season. John Russell/NHLI through Getty Pictures

Pekka Rinne is desirous about the Predators.

He was 26 when he took over the Nashville crease from a platoon of Dan Ellis and Chris Mason in 2008-09. Barry Trotz was nonetheless the coach then, with Mitch Korn as his goalie whisperer. Shea Weber was 23. Ryan Suter was 24. All 4 have moved on. Some to greater and higher issues, some not.

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“I have been right here for a very long time,” Rinne mentioned. “Once I got here right here, it was simple to are available in and be part of the staff. Nice leaders at the time. Since these days, issues have modified, however I really feel prefer it’s the similar tradition. You simply be your self. In the locker room, there are not any rookies, no vets. Everyone’s on the similar line. As a younger participant, you possibly can communicate your thoughts.”

Rinne smiled. “To a sure extent.”

He is the oldest participant in the locker room, beating defenseman Dan Hamhuis by simply over a month. Hamhuis returned to Nashville this season after leaving through free company in June 2010, and he performed with Rinne as the goaltender in his first NHL seasons.

“Nope, nonetheless the similar man,” he mentioned, when requested if Rinne has modified over the years. “Nonetheless simply the nicest man in the world. Humble man. And now he is performed lengthy sufficient that he is chipping away at some information. It is neat to see, as a result of he deserves it. He works extremely onerous. As onerous as he did when he first got here into the league. And that is why this staff has been so good.”

Goalies are like nice rock drummers: Typically they’re the distinction between a track being a success or a flop, however most of the time they’re counted on as a steadying, constant presence. Maintain the beat. Do not screw up.

Rinne is, exterior of some notable playoff defeats, that goalie.

“He is the spine of this staff. Now we have a very good D corps, however we would not be close to nearly as good with out him. He is been that good, for that a few years,” defenseman Mattias Ekholm mentioned.

“He brings that good steadiness of looseness to the room and seriousness after we want it. Unimaginable teammate, and a man you search for to,” Hamhuis mentioned.

That is not to say there aren’t instances when Rinne shows that aggressive fireplace. It is simply that his teammates are by no means the targets of that ire.

“I’ve seen him get fired up. Seen a few stick breaks over the years. Not too many, however a pair. He by no means offers it to us, although. He internalizes it,” heart Colton Sissons mentioned.

Rinne feels that for the most half he is the similar man who ascended to the Predators’ beginning job a decade in the past, with one notable exception: the quantity of coaching essential to sustain.

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“The older you get, you could have to be an athlete 24/7. At all times handle your physique. The demand right now is increased than ever earlier than. The sport is quicker. There’s extra talent on the ice than ever earlier than. You’ve gotten to handle your self,” he mentioned.

However from an angle perspective, Rinne feels he hasn’t different a lot from his first NHL win by means of his turning into the winningest Finnish goalie in league historical past.

“I really feel like I am the similar man. I am positive I’ve modified in some methods, however I really feel like I am the similar man,” he mentioned.

“Everyone handles their ups and downs in a different way. When it is the finish of the season like final 12 months, and all the things is performed, it takes you a while to recover from it. However at the similar time … it will get simpler when it will get older. You may put issues in perspective. Be a bit extra remorseful for your self, I suppose.”

And after that bout of regret, maybe one flies to Las Vegas to choose up a trophy. One that claims you are the finest goalie in the NHL, carrying out one other achievement in a exceptional profession that is nonetheless thriving in Nashville.

“Yeah,” mentioned Rinne, with a smile. “That was superior.”

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